DES TOMBES

The Des Tombe dining room and the room Theo, interviewed below, was born in. 

The Des Tombe dining room and the room Theo, interviewed below, was born in. 

before we get into this interview...

When we set out to photograph local families in their homes, this is the first place we ended up. I've known some of this family for decades, known in the sense that we've bumped around in a small town with all kinds of crossover that waxes and wanes with the seasons and the years. Their parents, like many of ours, left various lives in the city or across the country to come and make a home in the woods, way down bumpy dirt roads, unplugged and off-grid to grow some food, a family, or a community. A common denominator with the folks we seem to want to photo-document is a sense of reclusiveness, such that it's an absolute honor to be invited in with cameras and curiosity. We initially intended to do oral interviews, but something gets lost in translation between their voices and my fingers that feels subject to my own projections. These interviews are way more direct and honest. The images captured by the ever talented Kat Alves, tell their own stories. 

That said, a few scribbled notes gleaned eagerly from the matriarch of this homestead (who I could have listened to for days) are worth sharing. They drove out with a 3yr old baby from NY to CA because they wanted to see the country before leaving (for good for political and social reasons) and ended up renting in Lake County, CA, a few hours from here. They were given a contact of another couple headed out this way that they serendipitously ran into in a laundromat in Calistoga, CA. In this chance meeting they caught wind of the fabled Yuba River. When they came out and beheld what locals know as Bald Mountain they knew they were home. They arrived here in 1971. There were no phone lines, no power lines, no plumbing, only spring water and a very rough dirt road. Six women had been living on the land prior, and prior to that for thousands of years, before the riverbeds and hillsides were scoured for gold, it was home to the Nisenan. 

Three kids were born in this house, with the same midwife. A few locals helped build the addition to the original farm house, poet Gary Snyder among them. Theo and his wife Jaimie, also a local, had two of their kids on this same property. With a Buddhist, diplomat father and a mother who was a hard-working homesteader of the original kind, who's family was among the first to arrive here with the wave of "back-to-the-landers," there is a rich living history on this land. There's a lot of idealization of communal living and hippie homesteading, but these folks weren't doing it for fashion or attention. They were radical. They were abandoning convention, protesting the status quo, turning their attention away from consumerism, and re-establishing a relationship to place. They were willing to live with less. They were working their asses off and learning first hand how to live with each other, how to depend and be depended on by neighbors and friends. They had a determination and a wildness of spirit that led to some of the most beautiful, unconventional homes and lives. This one is a true work of art, with all of it's leaks and tilts and inclusion of the elements. Now three grown children and four grandchildren live on this land with their mother and grandmother, respectively, in various structures. Even though I see through the idyllic illusion, it's still a bit of a dream. Here's how husband and wife, Jaimie and Theo (the baby of the family, pronounced Tay-O) answered our questions. We gave most of them to Theo, being his family's land, but wanted Jaime's input as well, being a hard working mama herself and the one holding down the fort most days. 

How long have you lived here?

Theo: When asked how long I have lived here, I usually respond forty years because I was born at this place, live here now, and I am forty.  But during that time, I've lived elsewhere, the north coast of Arcata, CA being the longest at three and half years. I came home for summers, though.

I am native, meaning I was born here, though I've got my share of European guilt. My folks purchased the property in 1971.  They came here on a tip from friends (who still live here in Nevada City) who came out to be a part of the spiritual community called Ananda.  Go Yogi!  

Jaime: My first home was in Chicago Park, a neighboring small town near my grandparents. 

You're both locally grown kids, how did you two meet?

Jaimie: I remember being formally introduced on the street when I was bout 18, but Theo doesn't remember that. We both remember running into each other multiple times in Nevada City the next summer and there were some sparks, but I think we were both flying in different directions in our lives and it wasn't until a year later that we actually started dating. Theo is a few years older than me and our families ran in different circles so we really didn't know each other growing up. Even though we went to the same little country school he was an older kid and I knew who he was, our paths just didn't cross. 

You live on a homestead with several family members, can you say a little about who’s there and what that’s like?

Theo: We live here on the compound/homestead with my mother, brother, his son, and my sister and her husband.  It is to our great fortune that my folks were hoping that some or all of us would stick around or return to this property when they bought it. There are four children, and four parcels.  For a long time, I was the only one with a set plan to be here.  On the rare occasion that I wavered from that plan, my dad was quick to call bullshit and would yell, "If none of you are going to stay with us out here, we're going to sell and move to the South of France".  The South of France was his go to place whenever things got rough around here.  The scale was almost tipped when GW stole the election.  At that time, us being here was the only thing that kept him from actually going. Bless his soul.

Living this close to your siblings has joys and challenges.  I think it can be related to any communal living where you just want to be alone sometimes and you can't.  As a family, it can get even more complicated because there are difficulties in defining boundaries and priorities with respect to the family I've created vs. the family I was born into, and making sure spouses are empowered to partner in this living. Then there are the moments when we all come together and accomplish monumental tasks together, like pulling Scotch Broom, or when my brother helps me with duties like firewood and failing structures, broken pipes, pig castration, etc.

Jaime: It's sort of an interesting situation as someone who has married into it. There are occasional challenges. Fortunately, I adore all of Theo's family immensely. They are good raucous fun and I usually don't stop laughing when everyone is around. It's always been wonderful to be so near Theo's mom. She is an anchor for all of us and leads by example. She has spent decades here gardening and canning and upholding a standard of beauty and harmony in her environment. That I find really admirable. She has also been wonderfully supportive with my children. 

What's it like raising children in a fairly isolated rural setting? Why do you choose this over the seemingly easier option of living in town?

Overall, I'm really glad we have chosen this so far. We feel so safe and nurtured by this land. We have generations of interesting and kind friends nearby. It is a pretty cozy existence out here. Despite the conveniences of town living, there is an ease and simplicity here that we would loose in town. I plan my life around where I live. There is nothing like not getting into our car for days at a time, not having to hear the sounds of vehicles, bringing our food in from the garden and making meals from scratch with what is on hand because going to the store means 3.5 miles of dirt each way, and that's a small country store. I'm not all hermit, though. Wireless internet, satellite television and dinner parties are a must. It is getting more difficult with the kids as they get older and get more involved in extracurriculars, which is why we have chosen a hybrid homeschool option. They are beginning to ask for more time at school and more time with friends so we will see. Whatever changes we end up making, this place will always be home. 

What do you hope your children will have acquired from growing up here?

Theo: Raising children here has always been part of my plan, a plan based on the childhood that I had here. I guess that I would want the same or similar aspects to be passed down to our children. When I think about growing up out here, I never think of the house. The house has just a small place in my memories of country living.  My memories are of endless summers of swimming in the ponds, riding our bikes on trails that we made ourselves, building complex forts and tree dwellings. At one point, without our parents consent or knowledge, we created a logging camp and started cutting down numbers of trees with a two person saw.  The trees were small at first, but we naturally moved on to bigger and bigger ones until we had one lean back on the saw and get stuck. That saw stayed stuck in the tree for months until my dad asked where it was. He was not impressed.  

We didn't have TV for a long time.  I remember having to entertain ourselves and not having any trouble doing that.  I remember a feeling of pure freedom and adventure as long as we checked back in. That plan didn't always work because kids loose track of time when they are having a lot of fun, but most of the time it did.  

Even though this is a different time, I really strive to allow a little taste of that for our children.  For them to know the birds names that they hear, or the names of the plants and trees that they see. To smell the earth and to be able to dig into it, real dirt unmolested by human waste, that alone is enough. Even if our children decide to live in urban environments, they will know nature and know that it is there for them as a safe place to be. A place to be nourished, a place that is wild, but generous.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT MAKES THIS PLACE FEEL LIKE HOME? WHAT DO YOU MISS WHEN YOU'RE AWAY?

Theo: What I miss the most when I am not here is the nature, in a directs sense, of this place.  There is a cocktail of smells and sounds that is unique to this place we call home.  It is the Black Oak and Ponderosa Pine duff with waves of kitkitdizze and manzanita, all coming and going in the wind, taking turns of who's on top. Dry grass dampened by dew and warming in the morning sun.  It is this with the call of the Robin, the Flicker, the Acorn woodpecker, Blackheaded Grossbeak.  Wind coursing through pine needles creating a whirr, the crackle of falling oak leaves, the low and distant rush of the Yuba, more so at night, the screech Owl and the stars. All of this makes me feel at home and I have found nothing like it anywhere else on the planet.

Can you describe your family livlihood? What is behind the name "Homestead Custom Sawmilling?"

Jaime: This is really a question for Theo, but we did think of the name together. Our typical customer is a homeowner who wants to use his/her own tress for building projects and wants to bring back more of a connection to their surroundings. We see mobile sawmilling as extensions of both the locavore and DIY movements - and that's really what homesteading was, by necessity. The name evokes a time and place when people were more connected to all of the processes involved in their survival. If one wanted to build a house, they had to go cut the tress and skin the bark and raise the house. The word "homestead" honors that way of life and hopefully speaks to people who would like to close the gap between us and where our things come from. 

Theo: I am a woodsman, lumberjack, miller, self employed with chainsaws, tractor, and a mobile sawmill.  I enjoy it and have had moments when it has been my passion, but more than anything, it's a trade that made sense for me. Growing up this far out makes a job in town less attainable.  We never spent much time in town and a career in the woods became self evident as I grew older and strong enough to run a saw. I also play music and dabble in other artistic outlets. I have a long line of artists in my lineage and have always felt that I am obligated to continue in that vein to honor the genes that I have inherited. My father imprinted the notion in me that life was not being completely lived if one was not immersed in some sort of artistic endeavor. To work a job was only a stepping stone to afford time to further a deeper understanding of consciousness through the arts. Music is what I do most. I play the guitar and do my best at song writing.  I get a lot of material for song writing from the work that I do.  I write best when I have been working hard and I have sometimes wondered if one would not work without the other.  Without a doubt, nature has a big influence in how my music sounds and the lyrcs I write. Love, hard work, wild land, lack of money, and the way they all move in and out of each other, produces a lot of good song writing material. 

 

Anyone you have admired in your life or looked to for inspiration? If not a person, perhaps a practice or teaching?

Theo: As for people that I have admired, there are many out here in the woods.  I have been very impressed with the working class out here, Bob Erickson, furniture builder extraordinaire from scratch, self made professional craftsman artist. Lenny Brackett, super refined Japanese house builder, wood hoarder, master of falconry. Don Mossman, chiseled outdoor adventurer machinist with no fear, the Skoverskies, 3rd/4th generation loggers with epic work ethic and dry, conservative wit and humor. Walt Whittlesey, tough ass hard working timberfaller, a man of few but well picked words who's favorite conversation opener is, "You know what pisses me off ?" Then of course the obvious, Gary Snyder and his amazing ability to simply connect work, play and nature in wholesome words that suck the reader into believing that it is all possible. There are really so many, I was raised by one of the greats.  Through my fathers influence, I have always been drawn to eastern religion, but have in no way embraced it or any other religion. In a strange dichotomy, I am a true believer in nature, natural selection, live and then die, decompose back into the earth to finally become nothing more than earth, the cruel at times, and then nurturing at others, nature, but then I have confidence in some sort of spiritual reality. Reincarnation? Spirit floating up and away from your body. I don't know, but there is definitely something more going on than what is right in front of our faces.

What do you like to surround yourself with?

Jaimie: Creativity, music, beauty, old shit. 

Theo: I like to surround myself with calm and love.  I don't like pain or suffering.  I avoid conflict at all costs. Strange that I have chosen a field that is loud, dusty, and creates havoc. There is a peaceful center to all of it though, just like a trained warrior in the heat of battle, with the confidence behind skill, the chaos has a foundation similar to a well executed dance.  There is a joy that comes with that sort of control.

Can you share something about yourself that you're not apt to share publicly, something even those close to you might not know?

Theo: As for something that I do not share with others and that others might not know.  Even though my saw shed and other sheds become wrecked heaps of tools and trash sometimes, that I will have more loose ends than a frayed rope at times, and that I love to work but I am terrible at business, I am at my best when everything is in its place.  All things have a balance depending on their location and size of where they need to be.  The relation to the computer, to the printer to the key pad and mouse, and the coaster for your drink are very important.  The order of events in the process of cleaning a kitchen is set in stone. In other words, behind this laid back, musician, artist, logger that just wants to get along, I am anal as fuck.

Full of local art and family heirlooms, not much has changed. Even with a second generation family moving in, it's soul remains intact.

Full of local art and family heirlooms, not much has changed. Even with a second generation family moving in, it's soul remains intact.

Can you talk about the real aspects of living in an aging hand-made house that looks like it's from a fairy tale?

Jaime: In times past, and not count in fairy tales, people were cold and lived with less comfort in general, to say nothing about rodents. Our home is no different. Theo's father is no longer here to tell us what really inspired him to build in this way, but I'm sure he drew on a combination of his particular European upbringing, using wood and salvage materials, and the back to the land movement of the early '70's. The result was incredibly romantic and magical, though a bit of an illusion. We are all very attached to this home, but sadly none of it was built to last. It's era is passing and with it a good chunk of my husband's family memories. The thing with living in it is that the need for comfort and surroundings that are not in a state of decay comes to outweigh the romance of the past. 

photo of a photo of the original structure and Theo's dad,  by Jilan Carol Glorified, all other photos by Kat Alves.

photo of a photo of the original structure and Theo's dad,  by Jilan Carol Glorified, all other photos by Kat Alves.

 

 

 

SARAH COLEMAN

SARAH COLEMAN

We had the honor of visiting and shooting this place on a sun-drenched morning a little while back. We've known Sarah and her husband Akim for several years now, but have hoped to get into their space since we started doing this. If you are local you either own a piece of her art or covet one. I met Sarah when she was a server at one of the local Sushi joints. I was immediately charmed by her down-to-earth demeanor. I didn't know she was the same Sarah that mutual friends would refer to as, "You know, Sarah the artist who does does those crazy sky paintings." Or something to that effect. She's been a featured artist at a local retail hub Kitkitdizzi since it's inception, and a design and color consultant savior on more than one occasion when we were in need. Her exterior faux finish work can be seen on some of the most charismatic local structures while her fine art has homes all over the nation. The playground at the school where our children both go has been visually transformed into a full-spectrum celestial wonderland thanks to her generous spirit, vision, and skill. We feel honored to have spent the day at her home. If we make it back for a starlit bath in those tandem, outdoor clawfoot tubs, some serious dreams will have been realized.


Tell us a little about your art?

The sky inspires me. For the last decade I've made paintings with imagery solely from the sky. It’s a way that I connect with with my ancestors and humankind in general. We share the same sky, atmosphere, stars, sun and moon. I believe this is where we came from and where we will return. I think everyone, everywhere can agree that the sky’s expansiveness leads to contemplation and dreaming and potential, and I love it’s fierce beauty and ability to carve out and reshape our landscape. I'm also driven by the interactive potential of optical illusions in my art. Whether on metal leaf or mirror, my work’s reflective appearance varies depending where you're standing, the quality of light or time of day. The imagery moves and is not static. It's dynamic like the sky. My goal is to make the clouds roll and the lightening strike within the frame.

Cosmic Distance. Ink and metal leaf on wood panel. For more of her work visit Coleman Paintings

Cosmic Distance. Ink and metal leaf on wood panel. For more of her work visit Coleman Paintings

You do interior paint as well as fine art works. Can you say what it’s like to do both, how they compliment each other?

For one year, while living in San Francisco, I worked 40 hours a week on a high end painting crew. We had really interesting jobs at premiere Bay Area homes and businesses that involved murals and old-world techniques like wood-graining and gold-guilding. We once painted a Victorian style phone room to look like it was made entirely of tortoise shell. It was over the top. I learned a lot that year and some techniques carry over into my own art, specifically the use of metal leaf and certain old-school brushes. I still get the occasional job locally that calls for specialty painting and I really enjoy the work and getting out of the studio. I'm inspired by interior design and think of rooms or walls like big canvases with lots of compositional potential. My mom had a knack for putting things together in an unconventional way around our home.


How many hours per week do you devote to art?

Between 0 and 40. It tends to be one or the other. I'm working on painting more regularly so things don't get so crazy. It's also really hard to get into a rhythm after a big break from the studio. Painting is a lot like sports in that way. Regular practice keeps you fresh and on your toes.

You are also a mother. Having known you in the community for some time, I have long admired your ability to balance motherhood, family, and staying committed to your art. it's a lot to juggle. Have you made certain sacrifices or faced difficult challenges to have that be the case?

Yeah, being a mother has taught me to slow down. I'm not as much of an overachiever as far as work goes, which, turns out, is better for me. I come from a long line of hardworking Grapes-of-Wrath kind of people and I'm prone to moving fast and efficiently in order to achieve as much as I can in one day. I can really get into a tailspin. I call it whirl-winding. I have more of a steady pace now and have learned to really savor moments on a daily basis and prioritize quality of life over success, etc. I am completely ok with slowing down my art career while I have a small child. He moves me way more than any art could. That said, when I do have a deadline things can get a little off balance and I know my family feels it. The juggle is hard. There's less time for magic. It's all nuts and bolts. But it helps to have an awesome husband. Mine happens to excel at being a father and I wouldn't have gotten this far without him.

How was it getting to the place where you are now where you are your own boss?

I was an "I'm-the-boss-of-me" kind of child no doubt, and not much has changed. When I became my own boss several years back I felt like I hit the jackpot, like my whole life had been leading to that. Freedom. So, no complaints here, but it does take plenty of motivation and a lot of learn-as-you-go kind of lessons. I'm always genuinely happy for people when they quit the job that isn't working for them. That's such a great feeling. Take the leap! That's what it takes.

How long have you been in Nevada City, how did you land here, what drew you and what keeps you?

I've lived in Nevada County for 10 years, longer than I've lived anywhere. I grew up in surrounding areas and started visiting here in the early 90's. My dad helped build the Ghidotti building in the 70's. My husband, Akim and I were looking to buy a home and some land and embark on that whole adventure and I wanted to be close to my aging Grandma down in Yuba County. We already loved Utah Phillips and the Yuba and knew what we were getting into with all the natural beauty of the area, but were surprised and so deeply moved by the amazing community and all of its heart and true character. The special combination of charm and grit that this town offers will keep us here for years to come. I have strong memories of visiting back in the day when it was a little more gothy and punk rock. I was so enchanted. I know all places have to evolve but maybe we should make some "Keep Nevada City Gritty" t-shirts in hopes that it will never get too cleaned up. I'd buy one!


Do you find any aspects of living in a small tight-knit community challenging?

Nah. I love it. I'm under it's spell. I have heartfelt encounters on a daily basis with people of all ages. I'm friends with the people who grow my food, fix my truck, deliver my mail, deliver my son. I fuckin' love this place. And it's good for our kids to grow up feeling the comforts of familiar faces wherever they go and also to keep them in line and on their game as far as manners and golden rules go. Adults too. It's also a safe place for all of us to feel accepted for who exactly we are. Anything goes.


Your home is quite warm and welcoming, bursting with color and light. You seem to inhabit the outside world as much as the inner. Do you mind sharing how you found this particular place and decided it would be home? What do you like most about it in terms of the structure itself and the piece of land on which it is perched.

Yes we are outdoorsy. We live at the end of an unpaved road on 10 acres of wild land. And we love to garden so being on this south-facing hill is a dream. It's as warm and sunny as gets around here. We don't have dogs so all the coyote, deer, rabbits and fox roam freely and we're all aware of each other and we do a good job of sharing the land. When we first moved in 5 years ago, there was a male kestrel falcon living under the apex of our roof. He was like our totem and it felt like he was watching over us. He'd spend half the year with us arriving every night around the same time and flying off each morning. This was the first winter he did not return and we sincerely miss his presence. So, yeah, our house is a work in progress. It was well built in 1979. It's all dark brown and A-framey on the outside - not my first choice but it does have character. We have 22ft ceilings in the main room and lots of big windows. We all enjoy the brightness and the big sky views for sure. We watch the sun rise most mornings from our breakfast table. Our house plants thrive. I really do feel lucky to call this place home. It has exceeded our dreams. Creating an outdoor bath and shower was a big game-changer. When the weather's right, family bathing becomes the nightly activity.

When you have a free day to do anything you want, what is it you do with yourself?

I head to the river. Of course. After I get some coffee in town and talk to all the lovely people for way too long.

On location shots by Kat Alves

ELECTRIC LOVE COMPANY

 ELECTRIC LOVE COMPANY

On one of the first sunny days of the season we hopped in our car and traversed several miles of dirt road to a beloved residential cabin perched on the banks of the river to do a long awaited collaboration with Cassandra Crow. She's the creator of the Vintage clothing company with a heavy period evoking aesthetic known as Electric Love Company . I don't remember exactly when we met, but I do remember that moment when the myth of Sister Scorpio (her handle on her second, equally captivating IG account), as I'd observed her online and from the periphery of our overlapping social circles, collided with the person. It was one of the more gentle collisions, she is who she appears to be. And I loved her immediately. She lives and breathes her passion for Vintage and the era from which her clothing hails, and has crafted a life that reflects that passion. We had a hunch this cabin on the Yuba River with it's classic 70's features and lifetime of soulful inhabitation paired with her iconic sense of style would be the perfect amalgamation. Here's what she had to say.

 

What was your original inspiration for starting Electric Love Company? Have you always loved vintage? How did you come up with that fabulous name?

Let’s start here. Yes, I have always loved vintage. It all started at my first birthday party. Really! There’s this video of me opening presents and every time I unwrap a toy, I’ll throw it to the side, but when I open an outfit my little eyes light up and I give it a big hug. I think my spirit has been set in stone from the start to be a shopaholic. Once I became infatuated with classic rock & roll and environmentalism around 13, I started to lean towards vintage shops more and more. After that, there wasn’t really any way to go back to non-vintage. It spoke to me, I felt it’s history and I craved that so deeply. It really made me feel like an individual. Additionally, I loved the idea of recycling and resurrecting these forgotten beauties.

Let’s get to the name... Well, I pretty much wrote down every word that ever inspired me. I think I filled up about 7 pages front and back and would endlessly combine these words until I landed on “Electric Love Company.” It resonated with the origins of my 60’s and 70’s obsession. It reminded me of the love I felt when my dad put on Jefferson Airplane for the first time. Who knows if people resonate with that, but I did and I do so I guess I picked the right thing. Trust your gut!

 

When did you decide to move forward with that vision?

It all started with my thrifting addiction while attending UC Santa Cruz. I’d dig through these huge bins, often nasty but fun, and uncover treasures that would have otherwise been sent to the dump. It truly felt like I was unearthing this magical secret, and before I knew it I had accumulated more than a normal person should. I started selling my finds at flea markets and antique fairs for practically nothing, but it paid for a meal here and a show there so I kept rolling with it. On a whim I walked into a vintage shop in Santa Cruz called Tomboy and mustered up the courage to introduce myself and see if they wanted to buy some vintage. Suddenly, I had my own spot in there and some really inspiring women cheering me on (shout-out to Summer Duppen)! Anywho, being in that space really gave me the confidence to pursue it creatively and that's when I decided to start a curated collection online. I started shopping for those real special items that you find once in a lifetime, those pieces that they just don’t make anymore and if they do, damn sure not like they used to. I started on etsy and then built my own website. I didn’t wait around for people to do it for me, I just went for it!

 

What is your deepest passion and how is that related to your business, if it is...
 

I don’t think I can land on one deep passion but I can tell you a few. There are few things that feed my soul more than smoking a joint and playing guitar. Really, I don’t even care if that sounds cliche. I don’t share my music often because ultimately, it's for me, my soul, my well-being. It’s such a beautiful meditation for me. I’ve also been studying herbalism for some time now and can’t begin to express the love I have for it. Similar to thrifting, I feel like it's this magical hidden world with so much to offer. I believe passionately in the power of plants, indigenous wisdom and ways of old. Alongside that, I’m a big nature lover! You may know that if you follow my personal Instagram, @sisterscorpio . Any weekend I get, I’ll take my van somewhere beautiful and treasure-hunt along the way, camp somewhere, go hike or swim and then photograph what I’ve found. It's a beautiful life but also full of endless work.

 

You have a very specific aesthetic vision. Can you say a little about where that comes from and what inspires it? How do you achieve that look (without revealing your trade secrets)? Are you a trained photographer and do you use a camera?

My specific aesthetic vision comes from my strong belief that clothing is self expression and style is art. I think the late 60’s and early 70’s really showcased that. People were just letting their freak-flag fly. Things were well-made, functional, funky, beautiful, eye-catching. Colors were vibrant and encouraged. People seemed hopeful, unafraid and ready to throw down. I like that. I feel that. I think we all could use a dose of that right now. The music of that era was revolutionary and you can see the intersection between culture and style in that generation. The 60’s blow-back full of kids against war, intolerance, inequality. I just love everything about it and draw so much inspiration from it. I can’t recreate the 60’s or 70’s and I don’t want to - what I attempt to achieve is that essence. People are living that life right now, I damn try to, and I can share that to inspire people to live free and shamelessly. I recently sold off a big chunk of my personal vintage collection to invest in a nice camera. It was a great decision and I’m really falling in love with photography. There’s so much to learn but I learn by doing so that’s where I’m at. Creative inspiration is always processed with my dear friend and makeup artist, Jillian Wilkey. We go together like PB & J. I think its really important to find those people who make you feel confident and build on your vision - I’m lucky to have found that in a friend. We get so excited together!

 

You do a lot of your own modeling, which is something that I admired as a viewer before I knew you. Can you describe what that’s like for you and why you choose to do that instead of having other women model your clothing. Has it had an effect on your confidence or your power as a woman? On your own self image and body image?
 

Well, owning your own business is always a struggle. I think a lot of people can agree with me on that. I model often because I can. I’m investing in my business. If I had it my way, I would rarely model! I just have to make things work and I don’t give up. If I can’t find a model, I’ll be that model. If I can’t find a good

backdrop, I’ll make one. You really have to be creative to keep people interested. Initially, I was really insecure about posting images of myself and to be real, I still am. I don’t exactly have the slender physique of your average model-type and I struggled a lot with that, especially when vintage can be so tiny. As I said “F*@$ it” and kept at it, I realized I didn’t want my business to represent what I wasn’t because my business is this strange projection of myself. I wanted ELC to represent every woman, every body-type, every color, every smile. I don’t want to be another clothing company perpetuating negative body-image to women, so, if that's what I stand for I need to be happy with my own face, my own smile, my own body and go with it. The more I embrace that the more people seem to support it.

 

What’s it like running your own business and do you feel successful and/or satisfied?
 

Running my own business is constant fun and stress. I can’t say I do it alone because I receive so much support from my friends, whether it be modeling, inspiring ideas, makeup, hair, or whatever else the awesome people in my life contribute. But at the end of the day, I run it alone. That can be really challenging when I have to package 30 orders in a day and haul them off to USPS before I get emails asking where that order is. I rarely feel successful and/or satisfied. Just being real. I’m that kind of person though, I keep pushing and I won’t stop. I think that really works as an advantage for my business, but it can take a toll on my personal well-being. I’m pouring myself into ELC so when it doesn’t feel successful, I can’t help but feel like I’m the problem. I’ve learned to push past that but its not always easy.

 

How did you arrive in Nevada City?

I arrived in Nevada City on a total whim. My previous lease ended in January and I couldn’t seem to find a place. Santa Cruz is notorious for the competitive rental market so trying to re-home, let alone in January, was impossible. I gave up and had this cute idea to live in my car in the redwoods with my cats but that didn’t seem to jive with my vintage business and everyone thought I was insane. Looking back, they probably were right. I decided to head up here until I could decide on my next nest location - little did I know, it was right under my nose. I fell in love with this place and I’ll most likely never leave.
 

How has being here affected you creatively, personally, or professionally?

Living in Nevada City has completely transformed me. I love it here and living in a small tight-knit community has really made me feel empowered. I’m more comfortable with who I am than ever before. For those of you who don’t already know, Nevada City has a bizarrely high amount of strong, fierce, creative women who just live their lives how they want to, for no one else but themselves. It’s inspiring and I draw a lot of power from it, even when its from afar.

 

What’s your favorite aspect to living in this community and bioregion?
 

I love that everything is old. I love that everyone I have found, or has found me, is old in spirit. I love that I have friends of all ages. I love the Yuba, the backroads, the trees and all the amazing projects people have going on up here. This community invests in culture and you can feel it once you dive in.

 

What challenges have you had to face being part of a small tight-knit community?
 

I’m only coming up on my third year here in Nevada City so I’m not sure I’m feeling any big challenges quite yet. Sometimes I do feel limited creatively by the lack of people interested in collaborating with me. I think that I’m still finding those people though. That's the thing about this community, there are so many amazing artists just hiding out. I think I’ll find the right people in good time, things just move a bit slower here and I’m 100% okay with that.

 

What is your imagining for your future life if you were to set it loose without restraint?
 

I’d definitely start making clothing and shoes with vintage fabrics and recycled materials. I have a sketch book of designs sitting next to me right now actually. They always come to me when I’m laying in bed trying to fall asleep. I’d love to see them come to life. I’d also convert my van into a shop on wheels and caravan across the country treasure-hunting and selling my finds while learning from herbalists along the road. Big dreams.

 

What moves you the most, gives you head to toe goosebumps, makes you feel most alive....

Music moves me. Traveling makes me feel alive. Real raw authenticity gives me goosebumps.

 

All photos by Kat Alves Photography

 

Rachel Budde

How long have you lived here? If not native, when did you arrive?

I’ve lived in Nevada City for five months now.

Can you describe what pulled you here, what stood out, what made it feel like it could be home?

Since moving to California almost four years ago, I feel so lucky to have lived in some of her most beautiful places. Nevada City feels like the perfect combination of small town history, wild landscape and solid community. I visited NC when I first moved to Oakland from Brooklyn. I came with a friend to swim the in the Yuba. I think the moment we drove into town, I thought to myself ‘this place feels real good’.  

Bringing Fat and the Moon to Nevada City felt like arriving with a seed to plant. I want this seed to grow and be nourished by this land and community, as well as bear fruit and nourish.

 

 What is it that you create or do creatively?  Say anything you’d like to about it.

I am an artist and I am an herbalist. Those two things have much more in common in practice, but my identification with either mark different phases of my life. My work as an artist is my life, creating new compositions for various effects. I’m most inspired collaborating with plant medicines.        

Is there anything specific to this place that inspires you creatively or professionally?

In addition to the absolute magic of this place, I’m feeling really inspired by the community of people in Nevada City. I have a sense that people stay true to their creative natures, they see the beauty and possibility around them.

It’s so great to be in a community of people who get what you do, and support you.

Is there an event in your life that steered it in a new direction or otherwise impacted you in a profound way?

When I lived in New York City and learned that the weeds growing all around me were in fact medicinal plants, I found new meaning in my life. I saw that being an artist was just one aspect of my life as a healer.

Anyone you have admired in your life or looked to for inspiration? If not a person, perhaps a practice or teaching…

I feel honored to have Kat Harrison as my teacher and friend. Her work as an ethnobotanist inspires me to be a more creative herbalist, a more curious artist, and a more reverent witch.

What do you like to surround yourself with?

I need to be around wild places, the ratio of human to plant, animal rock and sky closer to the ratio of our ancient ancestors. I need to be part of a diverse ecosystem.  

What is a dream you hope to have fulfilled before you leave the planet?

I have big dreams. My hope is to manifest my gifts, and inspire others to do the same. It is through living our gifts that we become healing forces on this planet.

Carrie Sierra Hawthorne

CARRIE SIERRA HAWTHORNE

GDC_Carrie-33.jpg

We had the honor to help stage and shoot Carrie's home a few months back. It's a home I've admired for a very long time, rich in color, texture, and heavy with local art. Plus she lives there. When we were teenagers growing up in the same town but connecting only peripherally,  I was struck by her innate sense of style and grace. I know her now as a woman who exudes sincerity and heart and also possesses a wicked sense of wit,  who is loyal to the core, and as real as they come.

We became close via her acquisition of Kitkitdizzi, the local retail store she co-owns in the heart of downtown Nevada City, a miner's camp turned counter culture refugee landing zone in California.  We started working together then and the idea of doing her house seemed like an obvious thing to do. So we painted it. And then we painted it again. Once to add color and once to take it away. Carrie's got impeccable taste so it was really just a matter of playing with what was there, turning out the lights, and letting the sun and the lens of Kat Alves work their alchemical magic.  

Here's how she answered our questions about herself and life here in the Gold Country:

How long have you lived in Nevada City?

I was born here in 1976. My parents moved up here from the San Francisco Bay Area in the early seventies to escape city life to homestead in the mountains. 

Describe your first memory of Nevada City, anything that stands out, or something that stirs nostalgia in you.

When I was 5 years old, my father was a bar manager at the National Hotel. I remember running around and playing in all of the old rooms. I knew all of the regulars and they would walk me up the street for ice cream. The old Victorian that my parents owned and that my father was restoring is still there, perched up on Court Street looking over downtown. Now I walk by it and see the stone stairs he built in front while dropping off my daughter at kindergarten in the same school building that I went to as a child.

Can you describe what this place means to you?

This town is home. I mean that in the deep sense. When I am away, I feel excited and inspired, but only in the way one can when they are lost and the next turn is unknown. My sense of self is completely wrapped up in the familiar landscape. My most important connections have been made here, as well as my deepest loss. 

What do you love most about this place?

I love access to the wild and natural. I like the lack of overwhelming stimuli. It leaves enough space to feel grounded without feeling completely disconnected from the rest of the world. I love the beauty and dysfunction of feeling a part of a community and the creative people who choose to live here. I believe that there are certain strengths one must develop to survive in a small town. There is perhaps more personal accountability. I feel safe among this community and the people who inhabit it. 

And what is it you do with yourself here?

I am a mother of two small children and a dog. I own a home in town. I co-own a shop on Broad Street called Kitkitdizzi with Kira, my best friend of 33 years. The shop provides me with a way to hold a place in my community and to work with some of the most creative and talented people I have ever known.

Is there anything specific to this place that inspires you creatively or professionally?

The landscape. Living among the mountains, trees, and water. The feeling of having wilderness at your back door. The history of the town, both as a historic gold mining town and as a place to escape for the nature-loving. Living in and among buildings that hold a lot of history. Feeling like there is room to carve out one's own vision.

How would you describe this community?

We all make our little communities of like-minded souls even among small populations. I feel surrounded by open, creative, and conscious people. It's only when voting time comes that I realize there is a large portion of this community to whom I cannot relate. Despite that disparity, I believe it takes a particular kind of person to choose this place and it's among these people that I feel safe and thankful to live and raise my family.

What is something that has changed the course of your life?

The birth of my children changed everything about my life from the inside out.

Who do you admire or look to for inspiration?

There are so many who do profound things. Many go unnoticed. I am inspired by true humanity wherever I see it. In my own home I surround myself with artwork made by people that I love dearly as a reminder of where I come from.

What is something people might not know about you?

I'm an open book.

<< All images by Kat Alves >>

 

 

Dick Hotchkiss

DICK HOTCHKISS

"To create one piece is enough, the rest is process."

 

If you live in Nevada County and have anything to do with ceramic arts, have attended Sierra College or Nevada Union (where I first encountered him as a teen), you know Dick Hotchkiss. He's been here since the 70's. The land where he has lived since then was first inhabited by his parents in 1947 who "chopped down the trees to build this house and garden." Jessica Agnew, who's interview we posted recently, currently lives here as an apprentice of sorts. They are both iconic figures in the Sierra Foothills, one already established, one in the making.

We talked a lot about being an artist as a livelihood while we visited his property and how this particular piece of land and the structures on it all have their roots in artistic endeavoring. The salvaged wood structures, made from defunct Gold Rush mining flumes,  were part of an artist residency that was dreamed up in 1976 called the Winter Term. Fifteen students came from college in Wisconsin to learn Primitive Pottery. Some of them, Kirk Mangus, Annie Zimmerman, Chris Smith, went on to be successful potters. The studio where Dick still works was built in 1975 and has posters from that time on the wall exactly as they were placed 40 years ago, amongst a hefty population of abandoned pieces.

One of the truly incredible things on this land is a Japanese Anagama ("one house") kiln from a 2000 year old tradition, that was built in 2006, each brick handmade and able to withstand 2500 degree temperatures. It looks a little like a giant clay dragon, spanning a whole hillside. It transfers heat throughout a long chamber of hand made bricks. The wind and the accompanying wood ash that settles on the pieces are what creates the distinguished look of the glazes from this type of firing. Given the time consuming nature of these firings, requiring many hands, round the clock attentiveness, and many cords of wood, they are more of special occurrence. It's only happened twice in this kiln, the first one resulting in a small structure fire and a roof collapse. His regular firings are done in a gas kiln also on the property. Since the 70's Dick has been an integral  part of the annual community winter firing at John Woolman quaker school and has facilitated 125 firings total out there. 

 He is relying more and more on local minerals for glazes, though he has been digging clay from the local area for most of his career as a potter. He has a deep sense of place and home, and wants that to be reflected in the pottery and for the pottery to be representative of the elements specific to this place. He referenced poet Gary Snyder's sentiments around "sense of place" and art coming from that. You can see it in his pieces. They are not trendy, exceedingly bright and flashy. They are earthen. Solid. Indicative of the foothill elements, they are from this place. You can see it in the colors and in the feel of his pots.

Dick is someone who requires little recognition for his work as an artist in the egoic sense. His pieces are not fetching the prices of most of his contemporaries, though the quality of the craftsmanship and the enduring aesthetic rival anything being produced in today's maker world. He's not looking for personal acknowledgment as an artist, though is a staunch believer is claiming art as a way of life. He is drawn to it for the process, and the results make that obvious.

<< All photos by Kat Alves >>

Jessica Agnew

JESSICA AGNEW

Jessica's home. Originally constructed by Dick Hotchkiss and a group of Art Students in the mid seventies. 

Jessica's home. Originally constructed by Dick Hotchkiss and a group of Art Students in the mid seventies. 

A few weeks back, we had the good fortune to be granted permission (after incessant begging) to enter the shared property of Jessica Agnew and her mentor, ceramic artist Dick Hotchkiss. There are a number of structures on the land, built by hand some decades ago, showing signs of age, but more so boasting the resilience of wood, good craftsmanship, and rich stories. There is little separation between inside and outside with these buildings, and even less distinction between life and art. Life-sized sculptures populate the property. Heaps of discarded pottery sit as an homage to the process of creation. The place exudes passion, and also clearly helped to foster it. Jessica is a deeply beloved member of our community, an artist and musician. Without going on too much about her, and we could, we will share our interview instead and let her speak for herself. 

How long have you lived in Nevada County?

I have lived in Nevada County for 25 years.  My folks settled here when I was two years old. They would come up here a lot to just visit for a long time before I was born. My dad bought a lot when I was three months old and by the time I was two he transferred jobs and started building the house me, my two brothers, and my mom and dad lived in for most my life. My Dad fell in love with this place and I think he was ready to get out of southern California and wanted to raise us up in the county. We grew up going to all the rivers and lakes and swimming our hearts out. I swam commpetively most of my life. I was on a year around swim team from age 6 on and continued all the way through high school and college.  We always had a veggie garden and were covered in dirt.

Can you describe what this place means to you? How it lives in you?

This place for me is the definition of home. It feels like part of me....the seasons, the smells, the river. I feel like we kinda just grew together. It is my safe spot and I feel confident and beautiful  here.

What do you love most about this area? What do you miss when you leave?

I love so many things about this place. I love the tall trees and the Yuba river, the community we have in Nevada City, my country boyfriend (who went to high school with me), and the music I grew up listening to (I love Aaron Ross! haha).
 
I've had a hard time leaving here for a long time. I left after high school and went to college and came back after a year. I gave it another shot and moved to southern California and came back after a year. I miss my family when I leave. I miss the smiles on the street when you pass people. And I miss the mountains and the river.

What do you do here in the Gold Country?

Oh man. Well I spend a lot of my time being a barista at The Curly Wolf. It really is a special place to me. It's my other little family and a place where I am a big part of the community.  I mess around with clay sometimes. I work in Richard Hotchkiss's studio and live on his land where this studio is. I had a class with him in 2009. I think and it pulled me out of a dark place I was in at the time. I always loved clay and took classes in high school and college.  I have been able to participate in wood-firings at the John Woolman school for the past four years. I've been able to go dig local clay with him and split lots and lots of firewood. 
Beading is something I've fallen into. I fell in love with this form of art and the colors and patterns and how beautiful they look. 
As for singing and songwriting...I don't know what I would do without it. When I was a little girl I would sit next to my dad and sing while he played our white piano. I grew up playing the piano but never stuck with it. When I was in high school I would go to every local show I could possibly go to no matter what. I remember Joe Meade helping me sneak into shows at the Crazy horse to see Them Hills. I think I had a crush on every guy that was in a band in Nevada City. All I wanted to do was play guitar and sing....and try to play a show sometime. I would play local open mics and write in my leather notebooks. Eventually I started having real shows. I think my first being at Café Mekka, thanks to Joe Meade and Josh Henry. Now I've had shows with one of my role models growing up. Music makes me feel something; heartache, Inspiration, beauty, love and sadness.

Who are your teachers or mentors?

Richard Hotckiss I have to say, is one of my biggest teachers and mentors. He had taught me so much about ceramics and art and also life in general. He is a special soul and I feel so lucky to have him as one of my best friends. My Dad and Mom have always been so encouraging to whatever Ive always wanted to do...being there when I need them and always telling me to do what makes me happy. The Yuba river is a big teacher to me as well. Its my place of refuge. Where I can wash clear everything....where I can feel alive, sit alone and know that everything is going to be ok.

What inspires you creatively that is specific to this place?

I think that for pottery it's so inspiring to be able to create things that come directly from the earth here. It feels so connective to be able to use materials that are local and fire them to make it permanent.  The beauty of the Sierra Foothills inspires me. The blooming of the flowers in the spring, the running water of the river, the fallen down buildings scattered about the county.

Would you change anything? What is challenging about living here, if anything?

What I find challenging, selfishly, is how much it has grown, how many people are at the river stepping over me at my spot that used to be just mine. I get frustrated with that. 

What makes your heart sing loudest?

I don't know what makes my heart sing the loudest, I hope to figure that out. I'm such an emotional person. Somedays I just feel so sad and I'm not always sure why. I guess that's why I write and sing songs, why being part of the community is so special, to be caught when you are falling down. My heart sings the loudest when I'm underwater, or at the top of a mountain, or lying under the stars on a hot summer night, the breeze through my hair.

The ceiling boards in her kitchen above were taken from an abandoned Gold Rush flume and hauled back to the property where they became this stunning ceiling. Forty years later and still going strong. The interior of the building is flavored with Jess' own personal love of color and design.

<< All photos by Kat Alves >>


Tehya Shea

 TEHYA SHEA


Tehya Shea was born at home in an attic in the quiet hills of the Gold Country. She was raised rock hopping at the Yuba before the winds carried her out into the world for many years. A few years ago she decided it was time to come home and it is here that she has come home in the truest sense. Her work as well as the way she lives her life is strongly influenced by the cultural and geological history of the Yuba. She is as at home draped across a granite boulder or submerged in the emerald waters as she is within the walls of her home studio where she weaves her inner and outer landscapes into textural talismans.

Tehya weaves the way that she lives, in a deeply intuitive manner without following patterns or adhering to any particular tradition. She may have colors in mind, but works with each element as it comes, letting what emerges inform her creative process, responding and relating rather than imposing. Her current intention is to get, in her words: "big, ugly, and weird" with her work, as is evidenced by the wall sized hand-constructed loom that is a feature of her living room studio space. Visiting her in her home it is obvious this is someone whose life and art are inextricably linked, each informing the other.

Weaving is a reflection of the way that Tehya lives her life, it is a metaphor she applies to the movement and sway of life. "When weaving, the warp is laid out as a clear structure and framework: a sort of guide. From there we have the freedom to choose which direction we weave; whether we are wild or tame, refined or messy, and these movements define the cohesive whole. It is in this way too that we live and weave the stories of our lives." Tehya came to weaving as a way of processing the passing of her maternal grandmother, a way to work with grief and the human story, to embrace the imperfections of humanness. Holes, messiness and the ugly are all honored elements in Tehya's work as she allows and integrates the shadow side into her work. Her process becomes a ceremonial ritual of prayer and intention as she weaves these "imperfections" into a cohesive whole.

Weaving is not the only work Tehya does with her hands. In addition to being a fiber artist and working with texture in the physical realm, Tehya is a web designer (she is the woman behind this one, in fact) and works in a collaborative process to assist selected clients in weaving their vision in the digital realm.

"I'm finally really surrendering to and trusting each element that comes into my life. For the first time I am finding the ease and gratitude that flows with that. This trust in life and in turn my journey towards healing are both so interwoven with my work as an artist, both in the physical realm and the matrix of the woven web. For the first time I am consciously choosing where I want to weave my energy: choosing the work and collaborations that what will really feed my soul. In learning to say no to projects that do not resonate I am finding a necessarily slower pace. It is all a practice of self care that I owe fully to illness and the transformations that have come through my commitment to self love and healing."

To see more of this lovely creature and her work, visit her website: www.tehyashea.com.

<< All photos by Kat Alves >>

Everett Noel

EVERETT NOEL

This is Everett Noel. Some of us have known him since he was born, grew up with his folks. He is a highly skilled, self-taught hand forged knife maker living in the Sierra Foothills. Everett's interest in knives was spawned some years ago while still in middle school. He did an apprenticeship with a local blacksmith strengthening his native talent and learning old world techniques like Damascus layered steel. He needed inspiration for a project and stumbled upon knife making. He went on to further that skill primarily through watching videos and many hours of trial and error. He comes from a family of skilled artists and craftspeople. Everett made the table he works on and helped his dad, a master builder, build his workshop on the family property where he was born and lives. He is passionate about knife making and spends every bit of his free time when he's not taking his high schools classes or surfing, out in his shop. 

Everett fabricates every component of his knives, from start to finish, including the smooth wooden handle (sometimes from trees from his own property) and the leather sheathe. Each one is unique. The time and diligence required to create such works of art is evidenced in each knife. His work is available through his online shop and through Kitktitdizzi in downtown Nevada City. Take a look at the video he made below. This guy can do anything.

<< All photos by Kat Alves >>

Aimee Kibbe & Tiger Lilie

AIMEE KIBBE & TIGER LILIE

Aimee Kibbe is the middle generation of a three generation gold country family. She makes (and collects) extraordinary things, including the handmade structures that she inhabits on her off grid property outside of town. Her art can be seen all over town in various locations and in the homes of local folk. She is adept at embroidery, as is her own mother, and makes exquisite dolls, but to reduce the scope of her creativity to one medium would be fool-hearty. Everything she touches becomes a work of art, including her person which is often adorned in such a way that she is beautifully distracting. You can't buy her work in any store. If she is in a good mood and has a rapport with you, she might considerer a trade, but more often than not, she will randomly grace someone with one of her creations. 

Aimee also collects small animals and created a daughter named Tiger every bit as beautiful, creative, and fiery as her mama. If you spend any time in Nevada City, you'll see one or both of them around town....

<< All photos by Kat Alves >>